Republicans in the Iowa House threatened to pull the entire mental health omnibus bill from the floor today to kill debate and a vote on a Democratic amendment on “extreme risk protective orders” that could keep guns out of the hands of potential mass shooters or suicidal individuals.
Representative Art Staed of Cedar Rapids offered up H-8117 as an amendment to HF 2456, a wide-ranging mental health omnibus bill. It would have implemented a process in which a court could have considered removing weapons from the possession of someone deemed a “significant danger” to themselves or others in the “near future.”
The amendment allowed for close family members, people in an intimate relationship or roommates with the person to petition a court with significant evidence that the person was in danger of using a firearm to hurt someone. A hearing would have to be held between five and fifteen days of everyone being notified of the matter, and a court would have to find a “preponderance of evidence” to issue an extreme risk protective order, which would allow a local sheriff or police officer to confiscate the weapons. The order would be temporary and could be up to a year in length.
“This is a tool that families and law enforcement can intervene in a crisis and temporarily remove guns until the person is stable and can get the care they need,” Staed told Starting Line, noting that five other states already have similar laws. “This is a tool that has worked in other states and can work here to save lives.”
Staed noted that in 80% of suicides, family members and friends have recognized dangerous or worrying behavior ahead of time. This intervention method could help get firearms out of a person’s house that might be actively considering taking their own life in the near future. It could also give police a way to prevent troubled young people like the Parkland, Florida shooter from having dangerous weapons when they’ve been making comments that indicate they might attack and kill others.
The amendment also contained plenty of due process rights for an individual to present their defense in such a situation.
“In the majority of mass shootings, there were clues,” Staed said.
He also explained that under current state law you have to be involuntarily committed to a mental healthcare facility for already having committed violent behavior to allow local officials to confiscate firearms.
Republican leadership reportedly threatened that they would pull the entire mental health bill from consideration this year if Staed went through with his amendment. The mental health omnibus legislation is seen as one of the biggest improvements to Iowa’s beleaguered system in decades, opening up new access centers and expanding community treatment programs. Staed ended up introducing and withdrawing his amendment, a process where a legislator gives a short speech on the topic but then removes their legislation from consideration.
Democrats were not pleased with the heavy-handed tactics of Republicans, several of whom said they’d never seen such a threat to pull an entire large bill over a single amendment.
“I think this move was incredibly heartless and devoid of any thought to the constituents that these Republicans represent,” Representative Amy Nielsen of North Liberty said. “It definitely placed politics over people.”
The final mental health bill ended up passing this morning by a 96-0 vote.
by Pat Rynard